Chinese journalists in London embarrassed by intrusive compatriots

By Nie Xia Source:Global Times Published: 2012-8-5 16:40:02

Illustration: Sun Ying
Illustration: Sun Ying

Most Chinese journalists, like me, are excited about being at the Olympic Games. However, my joy was spoiled on the first day when the games started.

A sign was posted two days before the games began at the entrance of the London Media Centre, a working facility for media during the Olympic Games. It was only in Chinese, and asked the journalists to respect the personal space of those working at the center and to ask before taking their photographs.

I happened to see this poster. Although most foreign journalists wouldn't understand what it said, I felt quite embarrassed, as did other Chinese reporters.

It made me think of some other similar posters. Early in 2009, there were signs in Seoul's commercial districts, asking Chinese travelers not to steal. In Japan this year, there were reportedly signs in Chinese saying, "After using the toilet paper, please flush it down the toilet."

The sign was a head-on blow for Chinese journalists. It sparked discussion on the Internet as well as in my surroundings over Chinese journalists' professionalism and civility.

Some said news reporting is not a game that you win if you manage to take the pictures you want. It involves more, such as respecting others' privacy and sticking to journalistic ethics. That journalism does not enjoy a good reputation is partly due to irresponsible behavior of journalists.

As a Chinese reporter, I know quite well how my Chinese counterparts work and am used to it. We take the way we work for granted, but we don't realize that it may upset others.

Western culture stresses respecting others' privacy, not only in journalism, but in other fields as well. In comparison in China, the competitive social environment makes people behave in a hurry without considering too much about others' feelings.

In the London Media Centre, there are thousands of Chinese journalists busily working on their mission. Some reporters do ask for permission from the staff at the center to take pictures during their work, while some just take pictures and then go away, which I think is disrespectful to others.

Meanwhile, some Chinese reporters at the center cannot speak fluent English. They feel embarrassed or inconvenienced about talking to the staff. As a result, they would rather take quick pictures and leave. I believe if they asked for permission but didn't get it, they would stop before going too far.

The center has already apologized and removed the sign on request of some anonymous Chinese who protested that it was racial discrimination.

In fact, we don't have to take it that seriously. A member of staff at the center told me they were just bothered by some Chinese photo journalists, who were used to taking pictures too close to people's faces without letting them know beforehand. I respect her opinion. But unfortunately this is how journalism works, no matter in China or in the West. If you look for permission, you may lose the best shot possible.

I'm not saying intruding others' privacy is right, especially at the workplace of the Olympic Games. The games are still ongoing, and we're here to report on this grand event.

The performance of Chinese athletes is expected to impress the world, and meanwhile, Chinese reporters should also remember: When in London, do as the Londoners do.

The author is a reporter with Hubei Broadcast and Television Station. She's currently in London to report the Olympic Games.

Posted in: Viewpoint

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